Scotland’s Gaelic College: an Okinawan take

Le Gordon Wells

Okinawandumptitle (2)

ソールモールオスタイク んでぃいーる スコットランド ぬ ゲーリック 大学に ちーてぃ うちなーぐち っし  うんぬきやびら。

(“Nach bruidhinn sinn mu dheidhinn Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Colaiste Ghàidhlig na h-Alba, ann an Uidsianàguidsidh – cànan Okinawa.”)

At Guthan nan Eilean we centre our Gaelic attention on the Hebridean islands where the language is still most widely spoken, while reaching out to a worldwide community of interest. We believe this provides a firmly grounded platform, rooted in day-to-day vernacular practice, on which to build links and relationships with other linguistic communities who may be facing similar challenges, transcending nationally drawn boundaries of frequently debatable relevance or disputed authority for those who actually speak the languages in question.

So we’re delighted now to add Okinawan – another island language at apparent risk of societal desuetude – to our list of Other Tongues in which our films have been re-purposed. Here, Tomoko Arakaki of the Okinawa Christian University has provided a fresh voiceover for our short documentary film about Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This was first made in Gaelic and English for Series 2 Generations, with a Breton version following more recently. It’s a source of pleasure and encouragement to us to make this concrete and practical new link across seas and continents, with a view to sharing news and ideas in a manner as suggested, for example, in the “Two Lands Many Languages” film which was shot mainly in Meghalaya during the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Hebridean communities have functioned bilingually for generations, with the balance only tipping drastically in a majoritised monocultural direction within the living memory of current residents – an experience commonly shared in similar contexts across the world. If Island Voices has anything to offer in terms of redressing that imbalance, we’re more than happy to share lessons from our Gaelic work with others.

Producing an accompanying Clilstore transcript – at https://multidict.net/cs/9722 – presented various challenges, not least the lack of an appropriate online dictionary for Okinawan. Fortunately, Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle at SMO has already been putting his mind to this issue in relation to the “Mediating Multilingualism” project led by the UHI Language Sciences Institute. We can look forward to extending his “Custom Wordlist” approach beyond Okinawan to Indian and Jamaican languages in the near future. Watch this space!


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Titles for the Raiders

Le Gordon Wells

AlecScrnShtRetired policeman Alec MacAulay recounted this story in 2014 of his raider father’s bold exploits on coming back home to Uist from the First World War. Returning soldiers across the islands were in no mood for undue deference to the landowning classes, and were taking crofting matters into their own hands, with strong popular support.

“Làmhachas làidir” was the call of the hour. It was a fascinating account, related on the day to Archie Campbell, and recorded as part of the Comunn Eachdraidh Uibhist a’ Tuath project “An fheadhainn tha làighe sàmhach”.

Skilfully told here, it’s a compelling story well worth repeating, and recent techie developments have enabled Island Voices to enhance the access both for learners of Gaelic, and for those who don’t know the language at all. Now you can click on Closed Captions to get written Gaelic subtitles, which can then be machine-translated simultaneously into English and scores of other languages through “auto-translate” on the Settings button. If you missed it first time round, here’s your chance now!

Leading the technical team that’s facilitating this progress for Gaelic is Will Lamb, ex-Colaisde Bheinn na Faoghla, now at the University of Edinburgh. There’s a new report by Lucy Evans on the GARG (Gaelic Algorithmic Research Group) blog, detailing latest developments.


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Stòras Beò: Anna

Le Gordon Wells

AnnaAnne MacInnes, from Callanish on Lewis, talks to Maggie Smith about her family connections to the Breasclete community and school, where Gaelic Medium Education was pioneered.

In the first section of this two-part conversation Anne reveals how the Callanish Stones have always attracted tourists, but she recalls from her childhood the cèilidh culture amongst the locals, including many “characters”.

Her career to date has been varied, from Gaelic teaching to working at sea, but she remains attached to a crofting lifestyle, still keeping cattle. Currently at home with a baby, she comes from a musical family, and plays box and pipes. With fewer people now working their crofts she’s noticed a change in the appearance of the township.

A wordlinked transcript, with the video embedded, is available on Clistore here: https://multidict.net/cs/9355

In the second part, Anne and Maggie talk about changes in local culture. Noting that change and development are natural, Anne regrets the loss of local distinctiveness in Gaelic speech. The musical culture is strong. The link with the language should be upheld. There have been various sources of employment, including offshore as well as at the hospital or with the council, plus the nearby pharmaceuticals factory and the community-owned visitor centre. Visitors have included royalty. But the community hall offers a local focus. She remembers some of her grandmother’s special words, and reflects on the value of having family relations all around. It’s important to value what’s past, including local songs, as life goes on.

A wordlinked transcript, with the video embedded, is available on Clistore here: https://multidict.net/cs/9356


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Guth nan Siarach

Le Gordon Wells

“Guth nan Siarach” (or “Voice of the Westside”) is the name of a new Gaelic community group in Lewis, set up in response to the 2020 publication of the Soillse research book, “The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community”.

Members of this group recently attended an online Soillse workshop on “New Insights on the Vernacular Gaelic Communities in the Islands”, led by Professor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin. It was a refreshing opportunity for community members to take part in discussion with interested academics from a range of universities, both within the Soillse network and from outwith Scotland.

Some days after the event, Guth nan Siarach members met again on Zoom to record their thoughts, questions, and ideas after hearing Prof Ó Giollagáin’s presentation and taking part in the subsequent discussion. We’re very grateful at Guthan nan Eilean that Jane, Maggie, Christine, Catriona, and Calum were willing to share their thoughts with us.

“Mother tongue” issues are often very close to the heart, and it can take confidence, courage, and no little skill to talk about them openly and with consideration, especially when the language in question has been on the receiving end of prolonged disadvantageous treatment. It’s a privilege to hear the group talk among themselves about issues of concern. We look forward to hearing more in the near future!

We recommend finding the time to watch the full discussion. The contributions are varied, thoughtful, and expressed in good Lewis Gaelic. And thanks to the Gaelic Speech Recognition research team, we’ve added CC Gaelic subtitling, which you can turn on or off as you please – and which will also enable Google translation into other languages:

But if your time is short, you can get a taste of the meeting from these “criomagan”. (CC subtitling also available on this clip.)

And here’s Prof Ó Giollagáin’s presentation:


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Creative Craigard!

Le Gordon Wells

 

Our Craigard film was the first we ever made, and we keep returning to it for inspiration!

This week’s exciting news, following our posts last Friday and Saturday, is the addition of optional subtitles to the Island Voices Gaelic videos on our YouTube channel. When we asked who would be interested in such a development on our social media last weekend, the positive reactions quickly came back in their hundreds. (Some folk also wanted the reassurance that this would not mean the withdrawal of un-subtitled videos or of the Clilstore transcripts – we have no intention of doing either!)

Given the strongly expressed enthusiasm, the response from the Speech Recognition research project team has been instant and impressive. Systems have been set up to enable the automatic subtitling of all the Gaelic output on our Island Voices Videos YouTube channel, and all 20 films in Series One are already done – with the Craigard documentary in first place on the playlist. Keep an eye out for swift progress on Series Two and other films in due course!

The way in is through the CC “Closed Caption” button. To see any subtitles at all, that needs to be on. (So the default viewing remains clear of any textual additions.) You should now see the Gaelic subtitles.

But that’s not all – once you have them enabled, there’s another clever little trick that enables Google Translate to work on them. If you go into Settings (next to CC) and then click on “subtitles” you’ll find an “auto-translate” option, which then opens a wide range of languages into which the Gaelic subtitles can be translated. (WARNING: if you want English, DON’T go for the “English auto-generated” option first offered. Follow instead the “auto-translate” route and then pick English from the dropdown menu – unless you want a good laugh at “Artificial Intelligence”!)

Machine translation remains an imperfect science, of course, so any expectation of error-free renderings will inevitably be disappointed. Nevertheless, even without this extra facility, Gaelic learners stand to benefit just from using the Gaelic subtitles alone as an extra support for their eyes to help their ears recognise what they’re hearing.

So here’s the Craigard film again – this time with the new multilingual subtitle functionality added.

Nor is this the first time that the Craigard film has taken the lead in test-driving new innovations and community adaptations. Donald Mackinnon’s re-voicing of the original films in Gaelic and English was our first step along the road to the re-purposing of many of our films in Other Tongues. And, much more recently, it’s the film Valentini Litsiou chose for her Greek contribution. (Donald’s versions are actually hosted on a different YouTube channel, so the subtitling option is not available for them – but he did the film in both Gaelic and English, anyway!)

Donald in Gaelic:

Donald in English:

Valentini in Greek:

Who can say what the next innovation will be?


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Ceòlas nyári iskola

Le Gordon Wells

Rövid dokumentumfilm a Ceòlas skót-gael zenei nyári iskoláról, melyet a Skócia Nyugat Szigeteihez, a Külső Hebrdákhoz tartozó Dél-Uiston rendeznek meg minden évben.

Hungarian becomes the nineteenth language in which an Island Voices film is featured, as part of our ongoing “Other Tongues” initiative.

We’re very grateful to László Horváth, a long time friend of the Gaelic language, for this kind and skilful contribution in his own mother tongue.

László teaches at Corvinus University and McDaniel College in Budapest, but he has been involved with Gaelic since he was 15 years old. He has attended several summer schools at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, where he has lectured in Gaelic and made many friends. He has also written a series of Gaelic articles on Hungarian language renewal for the Gairm periodical. László is currently teaching his students in Budapest from Istanbul, where he is staying with his Turkish wife, Sinem. Still, somehow he managed to find time to send through to us a Hungarian version of the original commentary. Mòran taing, a László!

His chosen film is the documentary from the original Series One about the Ceòlas music summer school held annually in South Uist. It aims to integrate traditional music and dance in a community setting. It has strong links with tutors from Cape Breton in Canada, where old styles of Scottish fiddling and stepdancing have been maintained. The school attracts students from around the world.

As usual, a wordlinked Clilstore transcript – with the film embedded – is also available. You can find it here: https://multidict.net/cs/9092


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Tο Κέντρο ημέρας Craigard

Le Gordon Wells

Μια ταινία μικρού μήκους για το κέντρο ημέρας Craigard στο Lochmaddy, στα Δυτικά Νησιά της Σκωτίας. Πρόκειται για ένα μέρος, όπου πολλά άτομα περνούν δημιουργικά και ευχάριστα το χρόνο τους.

Originally made in 2006, our Craigard documentary is now re-published with a commentary in Greek, as part our “Other Tongues” initiative, in which our films are shared with other languages around the world. It’s a particular pleasure to see our first ever documentary, and still one of our favourites, brought back to life in this way!

As usual, a wordlinked Clilstore transcript – with the film embedded – is also available. You can find it here: https://multidict.net/cs/9062

Our narrator this time is Valentini Litsiou of C.V.T. Georgiki Anaptixi – an early partner with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in one of the follow-up initiatives to the POOLS project out of which Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean was born. So it seemed particularly appropriate to “go back to the beginning” when Valentini selected “Craigard” as the film she would like to translate and narrate.

Valentini still works for the same group, offering support in public relations, and has been involved in various other European projects. She’s always enjoyed this work because of the opportunities it’s offered to meet people of other cultures, who speak other languages, and who have other ways of thinking.

She also has a wide range of domestic interests, but is not enjoying this period of COVID-19 restrictions. Luckily for us, it didn’t stop her from making this excellent new contribution to Island Voices in double quick time! Perhaps the earlier experience of POOLS-related recording work made it an easy decision for her to get involved again?

Or maybe she’s just a natural star – witness her contributions in “Mi piace questo binario!”, also recently dusted off and re-presented…

 


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Gaelic Hebrides point the multilingual way

Le Gordon Wells

The University of the Highlands and Islands takes inspiration from Island Voices.

Perhaps a surprise to some, but not to us!

Here’s how it all comes back to Benbecula…

The tweeted press release touches on a couple of international projects that are being taken forward by UHI’s Language Sciences Institute. It doesn’t have the space to describe in detail how each builds on experience first gained in the Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean project, and the closely linked development of Clilstore at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Both of these have grown from originally European Union-funded initiatives.

Island Voices followers who have time and inclination to read a bit more may find the additional information below of interest.

Taisce bheo na nGael/Stòras Beò nan Gàidheal” is a joint Irish/Scottish Gaelic ethnographic retrieval project in which community-based expert speakers are recorded in their own homes. The first stage of the Scottish side of the project was completed shortly before lockdown began. There are now 15 hours of video material with Clilstore transcriptions on the Institute’s website, with access open to all. Project partners are now testing out alternative ways of making recordings online, in case continuing lockdown restrictions mean the Irish recording stage needs to be tackled in a different way.

The same issue has also arisen with the Institute’s “Mediating Multilingualism” project in India, in partnership with Amity University Haryana and the Indian network of Centres for Endangered Languages. With COVID-19 continuing to cause severe disruption to university-based activities there (including fieldwork), the project team has already been trialling the production of home-based recordings for publication on the same, highly flexible, online Clilstore platform. Six Indian languages have been recently added to its linguistic range. Some of these are featured in the short Gaelic film (subtitled in English) “Dà Dhùthaich Iomadh Cànan/Two Lands Many Languages” produced by the UHI team after visiting Shillong in North-East India at the end of 2019 (the International Year of Indigenous Languages). This is also available to view online on the project’s webpage.


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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Ceòlas yaz okulu

Le Gordon Wells

Güney Uist adasında bulunan Daliburgh kasabasinda her sene düzenlenen, İskoç Galcesi ve Galik müziği eğitimi veren Ceòlas yaz okulu hakkında kısa bir belgesel.

The Island Voices project is very grateful to Şirin Bryson for this Turkish version of our Series One documentary on the Ceòlas summer school – yet another addition to our “Other Tongues” collection!

Şirin works as a Pupil Support Assistant at Bun-Sgoil Taobh na Pairce in Edinburgh, where she puts her Certificate of Higher Education in Gaelic to good use. She also speaks English, in addition to her Turkish. And she’s learned Japanese too. “I believe learning multiple languages has many benefits. One of them being able to connect to the culture where the language comes from.” Cho fìor ‘s a ghabhas!

As usual, we have also created a Clilstore unit for this film, so you can read a wordlinked transcript while you watch and listen to the embedded video: http://multidict.net/cs/8726


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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विंडसर्फिंग – Windsurfing (Hindi version)

Le Gordon Wells

Ding dong! “लंदन को जाने-वाली ब्रिटिश एयरवेज़ की उड़ान…. British Airways flight to London….”

For those with a keen ear for language, the international departures lounges of airports across the world once provided rich listening, as announcements in multiple languages provided a constant reminder of linguistic diversity across the world. Then came COVID and the lockdowns. Almost overnight, international air travel came to a near-complete halt, and those multilingual moments have turned into ever more distant memories.

But our taste for linguistic adventure lives on, and physical lockdown has not disabled our capacity for creativity and innovation in responding to new communicative challenges, as our contributor Animesh Biswas has recently demonstrated, here and here. Nor is he alone! We now welcome a new addition to our Other Tongues collection with a Hindi version of our Windsurfing film by Rohini Tolsma.

Gordon Wells met Rohini, who is based in the Netherlands, at the 2019 NEHU International Language Fest for Indigenous and Endangered Languages in Shillong. The Netherlands is currently relaxing some of its most stringent lockdown restrictions, but in this exercise Rohini followed the same simple modus operandi as previous recent contributors, recording her voice on her phone, and sending the results to Gordon by Facebook Messenger.

Anyone listening will be struck by the clarity of Rohini’s diction, and may find themselves wondering how her voice somehow feels familiar. Well, if you’ve passed through Heathrow Terminal 5 or any other similar airport lounge, the chances are you have heard her before, as Rohini’s day job is to record the public announcements in Hindi for airports across the world. Island Voices have a Hebridean locus, but a truly international reach!

Here’s the film:

And here’s the wordlinked Clilstore transcript: Unit 8610


Tadhail air Island Voices – Guthan nan Eilean

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